Mid-Century Modern Enthusiasts Rejoice! The Conversation Pit Is Making A Comeback
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s spring editorial intern Katelyn Rodriguez. Find her on Instagram at @katelynrodwrites. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a fan of mid-century modern design, you’re in luck because one of its iconic staple features is making a big comeback: The conversation pit. I have been obsessed with them for as long as I can remember, so the fact that they’re making a comeback makes my vintage-loving soul very happy. It seems like other people are obsessed with them too because there are a few social media pages dedicated solely to the 70s conversation pits and they have appeared in films, such as “Casino Royale.” So, if you find yourself wondering what a conversation pit is you’re in luck because I’m here to tell you all about them!
What is a conversation pit?
A conversation pit, also known as a sunken living room, features cushioned seating within an area that has been built below floor level and accessed via a small staircase. The first known conversation pit was created 96 years ago in Oklahoma by architect Bruce Goff, but the famous Miller House in Indiana caused the interior feature to gain popularity in the 1950s. According to an article from The New York Times, “They were popular in the United States throughout the mid-20th century, in part because architects and designers saw them as a way to avoid the clutter of furniture.” The 70s conversation pits were also seen as a way to engage with guests within your home, hence its name.
Why did conversation pits go out of style?
After being the talk of the town (pun intended), the famed conversation pit eventually went out of style in the late 20th century for a variety of reasons. First, some people found them dangerous, especially after a few drinks during a cocktail party or for children, due to it being easy to fall into them. The second and more prominent reason this once-iconic feature declined in interest is due to the rise of media. As people began gathering in living rooms to watch TV, the focus shifted away from conversing and became more geared toward creating more entertainment-based spaces within the home.
Why are conversation pits coming back now?
During the pandemic, conversation pits returned to the forefront of some people’s minds, especially in social media conversations. On TikTok alone, the hashtag conversation pits has garnered 34.6 million views and on Instagram, the account Conversation Pits (@Conversation_Pits) has over 4K followers. Even accounts dedicated to the interior aesthetic of the 1970s have well over 42.7K on Instagram. With the element of nostalgia and resurgence of ‘70s style and decor, it only makes sense that conversation pits would also be making their return to the architecture world.
Pros & Cons of wanting a conversation pit
While I will admit there are pros and cons to wanting a conversation pit after years of wanting one, the cons aren’t enough to keep me from dreaming of having one someday. The pros of wanting a sunken living room are as follows: They are aesthetically pleasing, they add a uniqueness to a home and you can have one indoors or outdoors (why not both if they’re your vibe) for entertaining purposes. On the other hand, the cons to why someone wouldn’t want one also make sense. One major con of wanting a conversation pit is the cost. Most of these features are custom-built for a home and not everyone can afford to create one by hiring someone to dig into existing foundations. A few other cons include the aforementioned safety aspect for children and accessibility for those with mobility issues.
Alternatives with a conversation pit feel
If you’re still looking to have something in your home or apartment to give it the 70s conversation pit vibe, there are some options available! U and L-shaped couches, floor pillows and other low-profile furniture can help you achieve the feel of a sunken living room without the cost of a custom-built one. The website Apartment Therapy has a great article on how to achieve this aesthetic in your own space, no matter how big or small.
What is your opinion on 70s conversation pits making a comeback? Let us know in the comments!